"Dispatches from Europe" Blog Contest

Are you planning on traveleling to the European Union this summer? Submit a post to be featured on our Across the Pond blog and win prizes!

Environment and Society in a Changing Arctic Blogs

The third Environment and Society in a Changing Arctic class traveled to the Arctic Circle in summer 2014. Check out their blog entries from this summer!

Ringing the Bells at the Banner of Peace

Landscape Architecture Doctoral candidate Caroline Wisler reflects on her travels to Bulgaria.

Zach Grotovsky's Summer 2013: 14 Cities, 15 Weeks, One Long Adventure

University of Illinois graduate student in Germanic Literatures and Languages Zach Grotovsky documents his travels throughout Eastern Europe in the summer of 2013.

Polar Bears

The Environment and Society in a Changing Arctic class spotted polar bears in Norway!

Peaceful Opposition in Izmir

MAEUS student Levi Armlovich describes his experiences with the protests in Izmir, Turkey.

Monday, September 10, 2012

SUMMER IN ATHENS

by Nathan Yan

Coming into college, I really didn’t expect to learn much. I was going to get my bachelor’s degree in Industrial Engineering, spend a couple years working in consulting firms, and then apply to business school and enter into the world of finance. College was simply a stepping-stone, a requirement to get to the next step of the overall plan. In retrospect, I realize now how ignorant I was about society. To me it seemed like the mentality of every college student in engineering only chose their major for job security, and why wouldn’t they? In times of economic turmoil, job security is the most logical asset to acquire. As I met people of different occupations around Greece, I slowly started to realize that people are passionate about what they do. My whole life has progressed with the na├»ve thought that success is measured by the number of zeroes at the end of your paycheck.

I came on this trip to Greece, a nation flourishing with history, in order to learn about renewable energy, a field I only pursued for potential entrepreneurial endeavors. I didn’t really care much for the history or even the scenery for that matter, yet on the second day of staying in Athens, my view changed. As I walked up the stairs of the Acropolis, our impromptu tour guide, George, passionately described the great history behind the Parthenon and its surrounding ruins. For the first time in a long time, I was suddenly immersed by history. I carried this awestruck mentality to every historic site we visited on this trip: Olympia, Delphi, Knossos, and many others.

Interacting with the staff at the Agricultural University in Athens and hearing their lectures and discussions, I could immediately sense their passion behind what they do. These intellectuals purposely chose the engineering lifestyle over more financially promising endeavors in order to improve society.  At the farewell dinner with the faculty, they ranted about how some of the foremost intellectual minds choose selfish lives of finance, taking money from others, versus applying their potential to more beneficial fields of study.

In the simple words of George, he said that no matter what we pursue in life, it’s always important to study two things: history and poetry. These two subjects round out one’s intellect, history for its simple beauty and poetry for its intrinsic romantic character. It’s like when you ask everyone for advice for college. Whether it was writing application essays or choosing which major to go into. The advice was pretty uniform: pursue what you’re passionate about. Like most adolescents, I passed up simple life advice only to come across it again through my own experiences.  Although this might sound too dramatic, this trip has restored my faith in humanity. It has revitalized the notion that one can be passionate about what they do, that life still holds beauty in the power of a community working together.

This article is one in a series of blog entries written by University of Illinois students who were selected to travel to Greece to participate in a four-week Renewable Energy Concepts Study and Cultural Tour, provided by the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences (ACES). Tour participants embarked on technical field trips, cultural excursions, and collaborated with students from the Agricultural University of Athens and the University of Thessaly in Volos to solve real-world engineering problems. This program is partially supported by the European Union Center through a US Department of Education Title VI grant.
Share/Bookmark

Friday, September 7, 2012

AN UNFORGETTABLE TRIP

Santorini
by Jialing Ye

I appreciate coming on this trip with my fellow students this summer. It is a very fun and meaningful trip. I am learning a lot about renewable energy, and I have fun by visiting all the beautiful places in Greece, too. Before I came to Greece, my parents and I were both worried about this trip, because we heard that the economic situation is very bad in Greece. I thought that this trip might be dangerous. Obviously, I was over-thinking too much. This trip has helped me learn more about different cultures, and also about renewable energy in the EU.
Crete

When I first came to Greece, I thought that the environment looked similar to China. I think it’s because they are both developing countries. Different from Chicago, Athens has more of a night life. There are a lot of people sitting outside of the restaurants and bars, chatting and watching football games. This is totally different from the Greece that I imagined. I thought that since Greece is experiencing an economic crisis, people would not go out to spend money at night. After I spent few more weeks in Greece, I knew I was wrong. I can tell that the economy is worse than before, because when we passed by the shops, many items are on sale. Also, I see some unfinished construction buildings. I think every country will survive this kind of economic crisis, even the U.S.  I feel very safe and comfortable in Greece.
The Parthenon

I really enjoy my days in Greece. I can tell that the culture here is different from the culture in U.S or China. People know more about how to enjoy life. Every Sunday, almost all the shops are closed. People will stay at home or go to park. At night, people will go to the bar to drink and chat with their friends, no matter what. In restaurants, waiters serve everything at a slow pace. This is quite different than life in America. I feel like people are so chilled and relaxed here. Greeks are not very rich, but they know how to enjoy their life. I think this is what we can learn from them. In addition, the people in Greece are very nice to foreigners. We stopped by a restaurant to buy water on the way to Volos, and the owner of the restaurant give us a lot of gifts and free tea. We also met a lot of different people, and they all wanted to help us. I am very thankful that I met all kinds of people and got to know more about the Greek culture.
Sunflower on a Greek farm

I noticed that a lot of things are environmentally friendly in Greece. Every supermarket has a basket to recycle batteries. On the buildings’ roofs, I can see a lot of solar heater machines. Wind turbines can be seen frequently on the mountains. Photovoltaic can be seen a lot, too. When I passed by the supermarket, I saw a lot of advertisements for renewable energy. I find that using renewable energy is part of their life style already. Greece offers examples of how to develop renewable energy.

Overall, I think this trip is having a substantial effect on me. I am not only learning about renewable energy, but also about a different culture and lifestyle. I’ve opened my mind and broadened my horizons. This has been an unforgettable trip.

This article is one in a series of blog entries written by University of Illinois students who were selected to travel to Greece to participate in a four-week Renewable Energy Concepts Study and Cultural Tour, provided by the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences (ACES). Tour participants embarked on technical field trips, cultural excursions, and collaborated with students from the Agricultural University of Athens and the University of Thessaly in Volos to solve real-world engineering problems. This program is partially supported by the European Union Center through a US Department of Education Title VI grant.

Jialing Ye is a junior studying Civil and Environmental Engineering with a concentration in Environmental Engineering. She resides in Chicago.
Share/Bookmark